England captain David Beckham will be out of action for up to eight weeks after breaking a bone in his hand, Manchester United FC have announced.
Beckham suffered the injury midway through England's 2-1 friendly win in South Africa yesterday in a collision with Tebeho Mokoena, and was immediately taken to hospital. He returned to England today and was examined by United medical staff, who confirmed the injury, but suggested he would be able to go on their lucrative United States tour in July.
A club statement said: "David Beckham has fractured his scaphoid on his right hand. He will be coming back to Manchester to be reviewed. He is likely to be in plaster for six to eight weeks. However, he will be fit for the pre-season tour of the USA."
The injury will have no effect on England's home UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifier against Slovakia on 11 June, as Beckham is suspended for the match and was to have ended his season against South Africa whatever the outcome.
Nevertheless, the Premiership champions will be keen to have their best-known player in action when they depart for the US. Ironically, Eric Cantona suffered an identical injury in his time at Old Trafford, and played for a while in plaster.
Meanwhile, United have signed a co-operation agreement with Sporting Clube de Portugal. The clubs will work together on youth development, scouting, training and player exchange, similar to deals United already have with Belgium's R. Antwerp FC, Shelbourne FC of the Republic of Ireland, Norwegians FK Oslo Øst, Swedish club IF Brommapojkarna and Australian side Parramatta Eagles.
"We are very pleased to have agreed this alliance with Sporting, a club that shares our belief in the importance of developing young footballing talent," said United chief executive Peter Kenyon. The Manchester side's assistant manager, Carlos Queiroz, is a former Sporting coach.
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